Sacred Heart's Dr. Mark Latkovic, 56, was a brilliant theologian, practical evangelist

Dr. Mark Latkovic, a longtime professor of moral and systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, died suddenly May 6, the seminary said. The 56-year-old theologian was one of Sacred Heart’s longest-tenured professors and a frequent voice in national and international Catholic academic and popular circles. (Photos courtesy of Sacred Heart Major Seminary)

Longtime professor of moral and systematic theology died suddenly May 6; colleagues recall a humble, ‘faithful son of the Church’

DETROIT — Dr. Mark Latkovic was a brilliant professor, prolific author, a humble Catholic layman and a devoted husband and father, say those who knew the late Sacred Heart Major Seminary theologian.

“Mark Latkovic was a faithful son of the Church and a great family man,” Dr. Robert Fastiggi, a professor of moral theology who served alongside Dr. Latkovic at Sacred Heart for the past 21 years, told Detroit Catholic. “My heart goes out to his beloved wife, Christine, and to his children and grandchildren.”

Dr. Latkovic, 56, a longtime professor of moral and systematic theology at Sacred Heart, died suddenly May 6. According to posts on his Facebook page, the cause of death was a heart attack.

Sacred Heart rector Msgr. Todd Lajiness announced Dr. Latkovic’s passing on the seminary’s website.

“Dr. Latkovic taught at Sacred Heart since July 1990. He has served faithfully and generously over the years, and truly poured his whole being into the mission of the seminary for 30 years,” Msgr. Lajiness wrote. “He was passionate about moral theology and provided the students faithful teaching and a holy example.”

Born Nov. 2, 1963, Dr. Latkovic was one of the longest-tenured professors at Sacred Heart. He was made a full professor in March 2003, at the young age of 39. 

In addition to teaching dozens of courses to seminarians and lay students, Dr. Latkovic authored dozens of articles, books, essays and academic papers on topics ranging from bioethics and natural law to ecclesiology and moral philosophy.

He also was a sought-after Catholic speaker, addressing conferences and appearing frequently on Catholic radio, television and in news media. For many years in the 1990s and 2000s, Dr. Latkovic wrote a column for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s newspaper, The Michigan Catholic. He also wrote poetry, including recently for the archdiocese’s Unleash the Gospel magazine.

“His death is a monumental loss for all of us as part of the Sacred Heart community, for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and for Catholic Church as a whole,” Msgr. Lajiness said.

A prolific author, writer and speaker, Dr. Latkovic had a passion for making difficult theological topics accessible to the average layperson, colleagues said. “His concern was always the truth rather than the promotion of his own ideas,” said Dr. Robert Fastiggi, another longtime Sacred Heart professor.

Dr. Fastiggi recalled his late colleague as a thoughtful, kind and intellectual thinker who would go out of his way to help others discover the truth, goodness and beauty of the Catholic faith.

"I can’t recall Mark ever speaking an uncharitable word against anyone, even against those with whom he disagreed,” Dr. Fastiggi said. “Mark was always thoughtful and careful in assessing theological and moral issues. His concern was always the truth rather than the promotion of his own ideas.”

Dr. Fastiggi said Dr. Latkovic was his first contact with Sacred Heart in February 1999, when Dr. Latkovic led a search committee responsible for recruiting him.

“I remember discerning honesty and goodness in his voice when we first spoke over the phone,” Dr. Fastiggi recalled. “It was Mark's goodness and fidelity — and that of other people such as (now) Bishop (Earl) Boyea and Archbishop (Allen) Vigneron — that convinced to leave behind my tenured position at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and join the faculty of Sacred Heart.”

Although the list of his scholarly research and publications is long, Dr. Latkovic enjoyed writing popular-level apologetics, including for Catholic Answers, Our Sunday Visitor and even secular publications such as the Detroit News and Free Press

One of his most frequent topics was Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI’s landmark 1968 encyclical that defended the use of natural family planning and traditional Catholic sexual ethics. In February, Dr. Latkovic spoke to a group of young adults on beginning and end-of-life ethics during a local Theology on Tap. 

In 2013, he wrote a popular-level book on everyday decision-making, titled “What’s a Person to Do? Everyday Decisions that Matter” (Our Sunday Visitor Press).

A rare blend of a scholarly mind and practical evangelist, Dr. Latkovic always concerned himself first with evangelization, said another longtime colleague, Sacred Heart theology professor Dr. Daniel Keating.

“Above all, Mark was a devout and faithful follower of Christ, dedicated to advancing the truth and beauty of Christ’s teaching, especially as it applies to the moral life,” Dr. Keating said. “Mark was unquenchable in his readiness to explain and defend the Church’s teaching on moral issues. These were not merely academic questions for Mark, but issues that concerned the spiritual health of the faithful.”

In an interview with Mosaic, the seminary’s magazine, in 2018, Dr. Latkovic stressed that every Catholic can evangelize in simple, effective ways.

“Do I feel called to evangelize on social media or go to the soup kitchen and preach? It doesn’t matter, we must get out in the world, using the language of our faith,” Dr. Latkovic told Mosaic. “When we say goodbye to somebody, we often say ‘take care.’ Why not say ‘God bless’? Even if the person doesn’t believe in God, why not say, ‘God bless you, man’? Something this small is a massive change.”

A member of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, Dr. Latkovic described his own spirituality as “simple,” often consisting of just his favorite prayer, the Hail Mary, as he walked and meditated up to five miles per day.

To his colleagues, Dr. Latkovic was “energetic, joyful, engaged and encouraging,” Dr. Keating said. “He was always helpful, quick to respond to requests and ready to give whatever resources he could provide.”

While most professors knew Dr. Latkovic as a colleague, Dr. Tamra Hull Fromm also knew him as a teacher.

“As my instructor in moral theology at the seminary, Dr. Latkovic gave me the framework for making good decisions in line with my ultimate purpose,” said Dr. Fromm, who later worked in Sacred Heart’s admissions office. “As both a layperson and academic, he inspired me in my own vocation. He will be sorely missed.”

While his loss from the seminary community will be difficult to bear, Dr. Fastiggi said Dr. Latkovic is now likely right where he always wanted to be.

“We entrust his soul to the Mercy of God, confident that he is (or soon will be) enjoying the beatific vision of the most Holy Trinity surrounded by love of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels, and all the saints,” Dr. Fastiggi said.

Memorial details will be made available at a later date.